Last Updated May 4, 2010 6:30 AM EDT
Internationally, there is no question that this will be approved. The feds have already approved a joint venture which would allow cooperation for international routes, so this would have no competitive impact at all. It's just a domestic issue.
The remarkable thing about a United/Continental merger is that there is shockingly little overlap. In fact, there are only 14 routes that they both fly individually, all of them domestic. Here's the list:
|Chicago/O'Hare - Cleveland||American|
|Chicago/O'Hare - Houston/Intercontinental||American|
|Chicago/O'Hare - Newark||American|
|Denver - Cleveland||None|
|Denver - Houston/Intercontinental||Frontier|
|Denver - Newark||None|
|Los Angeles - Honolulu||American, Delta, Hawaiian|
|Los Angeles - Houston/Intercontinental||None|
|Los Angeles - Kahului (Maui)||American, Delta|
|San Francisco - Houston/Intercontinental||None|
|San Francisco - Newark||None|
|Washington/Dulles - Cleveland||None|
|Washington/Dulles - Houston/Intercontinental||None|
|Washington/Dulles - Newark||None|
In short, if Delta and Northwest can get approved, so should this. But that doesn't mean it'll be easy. Delta and Northwest obtained approval under a different regime. The Department of Justice has been fighting the airlines tooth and nail lately, even when it doesn't make sense. For example, the proposed slot swap between US Airways and Delta received sharp criticism from DOJ even though it should have good benefits for the consumer.
In the end, my guess is this will go through, as it should, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's not as easy as it should be.